Latin Lawyer
2012

Guyer & Regules

Elite dealmaker at the top of its game

Guyer & Regules’ name is synonymous with prestige and high-end deal making, and so the firm sits very comfortably at the top of Uruguay’s legal market. The country’s second largest firm celebrated 100 years of existence this year. Today it offers a blend of tradition and enterprise that is appreciated by its long-standing, high profile clients.

Guyer & Regules is particularly notable for its transactional work, pulling in an enviable proportion of Uruguayan deals year on year. This is also a full service firm, with a deep bench across its departments. A great number of Montevideo’s most eminent lawyers belong to this dynamic firm’s partnership, and they work tirelessly to ensure the firm leads the way in many of the areas of law in which it practises. The firm has increased its associate ranks slightly this year, sticking to its commitment of picking only the best talent, and seems happy not to compete with Uruguay’s largest firm in terms of size.

 

PEOPLE & PRACTICES

CORPORATE AND M&A

As befits a transactional heavyweight, M&A is a strong suit under Nicolás Herrera, Nicolás Piaggio and Álvaro Tarabal. The corporate group is praised for being “a team that executed its role with accuracy and creative solutions when needed.”

Herrera and Piaggio are successful promoters of the firm’s name overseas and command particular respect in the marketplace, with one financial client likening their technical skills to those of top lawyers in New York and London (Piaggio is ex-Linklaters) and rightly noting their preference for deals which are innovative and multijurisdictional in nature.  Another says Herrera is one of the most experienced lawyers and smartest dealmakers to come out of Uruguay in the last two decades, while Tarabal is “extremely competent, knowledgeable and well-connected.”

Piaggio had a prolific 2011. His headline transactions include his work on the Montes del Plata paper mill plant. He and tax head Juan Manuel Albacete have been advising on the US$1.9 billion project, helping to win environmental approval and to secure an agreement with Uruguay’s state-owned electricity company to tap into the country’s national electricity grid. Piaggio also worked on the more controversial Botnia pulp plant, which saw Argentina take on the mill owners and Uruguay over allegations of pollution. There are plenty more examples of standout deals; Piaggio and younger partner Juan Manuel Mercant won the file for ING when it sold off its regional assets to Colombia’s Grupo Sura for US$3.8 billion and advised BBVA in the latter stages of its US$100 million acquisition of Crédit Uruguay. Piaggio helped Geely International, China’s largest private automobile maker, in a joint venture with Uruguay’s Nordex to establish a new assembly plant in Uruguay. Tarabal helped Colombian supermarket chain Éxito (part of France’s Casino group) in its acquisition of two local retailers, and the M&A team was called upon by Brazil’s third-largest meatpacker, Minerva, when it bought Uruguayan meat processor Pul for US$62 million. Piaggio also helped local supermarket chain Supermercados Multiahorro add three large supermarkets to its portfolio. ING was not the only financial institution to call on the firm for a multijurisdictional M&A; Leonardo Slinger provided local counsel to Zurich Financial Services in its purchase of a majority stake in Santander’s regional insurance business for US$1.6 billion. In more general corporate work, Mercant and Slinger helped US-based APAC Customer Services open its first Latin American call centre in a Uruguayan free trade zone.

ANTITRUST & COMPETITION

Antitrust is a developing area of law in Uruguay and one Guyer & Regules is keen to excel in. Juan Manuel Mercant is leading the way, making his name in milestone cases. He and Nicolás Piaggio helped Supermercados Multiahorro to a landmark victory after a local brewer refused to sell its products to its chains, which saw the country’s new antitrust agency fine the brewer.

BANKING & FINANCE

The skills of Nicolás Piaggio and Álvaro Tarabal are as evident in banking and finance as they are in M&A. Piaggio’s work for Montes del Plata saw him help the pulp mill obtain a US$1.35 billion credit facility from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Finnvera, the Finnish government’s export credit agency, which is the largest financing deal in Uruguay’s history to date. Diego Baldomir is another key name in this department, and is often seen helping European development banks provide financing to local companies. Juan Manuel Mercant and Gerardo Porteiro provided counsel to HSBC in its loan to Uruguayan pharmaceutical company Mega Pharma. Piaggio helped US investment fund Sequoia Capital invest in Uruguayan technology company Scanntech.

CAPITAL MARKETS

Nicolás Piaggio’s tirelessness extends to capital markets work. He is regularly called upon by the banks for the government’s issuances; he worked for Citigroup and HSBC in Uruguay’s US$2 billion global bonds placement at the start of 2012, and for Nomura Securities in a samurai bond issuance worth US$490 million. Piaggio also advised Banco Itaú and GAP Consultores in their role in a debt issuance by racecourse owner Hipica Rioplatense.

TAX

Juan Manuel Albacete is a leading name in this field, and said to “meet our needs with excellence”. He recently helped regular client Telefónica obtain a favourable judgement before the highest Uruguayan tribunal court for administrative matters in a case against Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Antel), the country’s state-owned telecoms company. The team is backed up by a sizeable CPA practice.

LITIGATION

Carlos Brandes is renowned as having “vast experience in civil litigation and particularly in international commercial arbitration.” He and Alejandro Miller assisted the Inter-American Investment Corporation in its case with the International Finance Corporation brought before a Uruguayan appeals court by two bondholders claiming they were misled into investing in bankrupt poultry processor Granja Moro. The judgment found in favour of the two financial institutions, which were both shareholders in the now defunct company.

LABOUR

Guyer & Regules counts two senior statesmen in the field of labour law in its partnership; Leonardo Slinger and Eduardo Ameglio. Slinger has been practising for some 25 years, and is mostly known for his work in litigation and collective matters, such as strikes and occupations and union issues, typified by his victory for Uruguay’s Chamber of Industry in challenging the country’s collective negotiation law. Ameglio has been active or 32 years, and recognised as a great lawyer with innovative solutions in labour conflicts.

ENVIRONMENT

Anabela Aldaz is a noted consultant in this field, having focused on environmental law since 2000. She works with two other lawyers helping clients with permits and compliance and helped obtain the environment licences for the Montes del Plata pulp plant.

CLIENTS

Guyer & Regules’ elite list of clients reaffirms its leading reputation. The firm helped Citibank set up operations in Uruguay, and counts it and ING, BBVA and HSBC as banking clients. Such prominent financial names turn to this firm because they “always find strong teams that deliver under pressure,” in the words of one, “valuing its experience, and the access to official channels that the firm’s experience and tradition have successfully developed”. One of Uruguay’s biggest banking clients says: “It has significant experience and access to regulators, lawmakers, major business players and the judicial system, which works to the advantage of its customers. Given its legal experience and networking capabilities, we confidently recommend the firm to our customers.” The Inter-American Investment Corporation and Dutch and German development banks use the firm as do Zurich Financial Services and UK private equity fund Ashmore. One finance client sees the firm as an extension of their office, with shared values on transparency and regulatory compliance. A leading emerging markets investment manager says, “The firm provides an excellent, client-focused and professional level of service.”

Prominent global clients in the corporate sphere include Spanish telecoms company Telefónica, cement maker Loma Negra, oil field operation and maintenance company AESA, mining group Rio Tinto, McDonald’s Latin American franchiser, Arcos Dorados, and Unilever, whose country manager Luis Maria Rodriguez says of the firm, “They have provided excellent practical and commercial advice… the best legal service we require. The team has demonstrated deep knowledge in these areas and goes beyond the legal aspects, taking the time to understand our business.”

The firm attracts companies from Latin America’s newer trading partners, including China’s Geely International, and advises Latin American companies expanding outside their countries; such as Colombian supermarket chain Éxito and Brazilian beef company Minerva. Local names like Mega Pharma also use the firm. Finnish forestry companies Stora Enso and Metsä-Botnia are key clients. The firm is representing the company and its financers in day to day matters on what is Uruguay’s biggest pulp mill. Guyer & Regules fosters deep and lasting relationships with its clients which allow it to become closely associated with their business in all its aspects. One client explains, “The firm provides comprehensive coverage of all areas of investment banking and corporate finance as well as tax advice.”

OFFICES

As well as its office in Montevideo Guyer & Regules has a branch in the city’s free trade zone which offers offshore services to international clients and is one of a growing group of Uruguayan firms to have a base in the exclusive tourist spot of Punta del Este.

ALLIANCES & NETWORKS

This firm is a strong believer in international law firm networks, and has been careful to pick what it considers to be the best. These are the Club de Abogados, the Lex Mundi network, Multilaw and the World Services Group.

PRO BONO

This firm is committed to pro bono, with lawyers each providing a respectable 12 to 15 hours of free legal services a year. Recipients include the Jubilar high school, a private school whose goal is to provide education to the most disadvantaged sectors of the population, and DESEM, the local arm of Junior Achievement Worldwide, which seeks to develop entrepreneurial skills at early ages. Guyer & Regules also successfully negotiated with Uruguay’s Ministry of Economy and parliament to introduce to the national budget tax deductions on donations to school and high-school education in low-income neighbourhoods.